The sun beat down from above, causing even the hardiest of plants to droop and wilt beneath its relentless rays. The meadow within the vale was silent, save for the high pitched whirring of summer cicadas. The air itself seemed to crackle with the heat, sending the world's creatures to seek shelter from its cruel burn. In the Vale, shade was sparse, but what it lacked in trees it more than made up in yawning caverns and sprawling cave systems. Here the very earth itself provided shelter for its children, cradling them in a bosom of cool, moist air.
Galen, a large, black Titan was among them. At the entrance to one such cave system, tangled over with prickly thickets, he lay sprawled. Even a beast so large as he could not tame the elements. It had sent him to ground with a lolling tongue and tired steps. How in Odin's name did it get so hot in a place that had previously had so much snow? A loud groan rumbled from the lounging Felvarg as he fruitlessly licked his lips. The shade was a blessing, but even it could do nothing against the thirst that ravaged his insides. He had not drank since morning, but it was far too hot to search for water above ground.
Galen shifted to peer into the depths of the cavern. For a moment he stilled his panting tongue, pricking his ears to listen to the soft whistle of air that wound through the caves. It brought with it a slightly sweet scent, and was damp, though Galen knew the caves well enough to understand that it may not have held the promise of water. Yet - Galen's gaze flickered to squint into the bright white of the surface - if he was going to find water, he would have to do it now. With a resigned sigh Galen heaved himself to his feet. He gave no sign of hesitation as he turned to the depths of the cave, determined now to face the treacherous maze.
The heat had not left the Titan without his wits though. As he rounded the first bend of the tunnels he lifted one massive paw and clawed a furrow deep into the soft stone. For a moment he gazed at his handiwork before he continued onwards. He did this each time the path wavered, and when it split he carved two sets of gouges along the way he had come. In this way he marked his path, allowing Galen to travel the caves without the fear of getting lost.
Occasionally he would stop to sniff at an outcropping of rock, or paw at a muddy pool of sludge, but each time Galen would shake his head or snort in disappointment before moving on. This went on for some time before Galen found himself with his nose squashed into a whole in the cave wall. Contrary to the possible conclusion of having lost his mind, Galen had actually managed to find water! A small pool had collected within a crevice in the stone, and Galen was currently engaged with the arduous task of retrieving it. He had quickly realized that the only way to reach it was to jam his snout into the crevice sideways and scoop it out with his tongue. Most Felvargs would have had no problem accessing the reservoir, but Galen? Galen was not most Felvargs, and as such the simple task became monumentally difficult, thanks to his large size.
Each lap of water was accompanied by an embarrassing and obnoxious snort. Fortunately for Galen, and for any potential observer, he was alone. This was all well and good for the world, because it was unlikely the TItan would have left any witnesses to his compromising ordeal. By the time Galen's thirst was sated his teeth were covered in slimy residue from the cave wall, and he spent the entire walk back working the dirt out of his teeth and making a variety of disgusted grimaces. He would be pleased when he next encountered a proper water source. Blasted caves. Blasted heat.
Galen was not the only Felvarg suffering from the heat though. On the other side of the world two Felvargs, connected to Galen through the strings of fate, also fought to stay cool. Viktor had collected himself in the shade of an old oak tree, while Milani splashed about in the cold waters of a bubbling brook. The two were far better off than Galen, with both ample shade and water. Milani had her nose submerged just beneath the surface of the water, staring down in fascination as air bubbled forth from her snout. She watched as each bubble rose to the surface, clung there for a brief moment, and was then burst by the current of the stream and carried away. She giggled, finding a child's delight in such a simple thing.
Viktor, meanwhile, simply watched with the faintest of smiles. His head was stretched out in the cool grass, taking full advantage of the shade he found himself in. Yet though his eyes followed Milani's movements, his thoughts were elsewhere. He was thinking of Maiara, of the strange ways she had made him smile, and of the way his mind's eye kept comparing her to his darling Rosanne. He did not bother asking the world why, for he knew the answer to that question already. She was wonderful in the way she had cared for Milani, and an energy bubbled within her that reminded him of the love Rosanne had always had for the world. And yet... Viktor found himself wanting to pull away, to ignore the tugging he felt at his insides. It was rare that he encountered someone that gave him pause, but whenever he did Viktor was plagued with fears of betrayal, and pain.
He had not yet learned that it was okay to move on. Viktor feared that if he let himself stop grieving it would be an insult to his mate and child. That he would, in some way, be betraying them. His focus shifted to Milani. With a heavy sigh Viktor's head lulled to the side, his eyes half closing as a tired haze gripped him. With Milani it was different. She was a chance to start over, to try again. He felt that Rose would have wanted him to protect her, to keep her safe and well, and to not let the sickness that had gripped his poor child take Milani's life. There was no betrayal there. Again Viktor sighed, his expression slipping into a frown that betrayed his distant thoughts. He would not lose another child.
Maiara though? It would be unfair to her for Viktor to pursue her. He did not know if he looked at her and saw her, or if he, instead, saw only what he wanted to see. He would have expectations, and it was not her place to fill a hole that could never be filled. For the third time Viktor sighed. "If you keep sighing like that someone might think you want attention!" Milani called out with a giggle, trotting up to the male to boop her nose against his. The silver necklace that Maiara had given her sparkled in the sunlight, drawing Viktor's gaze up until he lifted his head to smile fondly at Milani.
"Or perhaps I am simply enjoying the sight of you blowing bubbles." Viktor lightly teased.
Milani scrunched her nose and huffed and puff of air into Viktor's face. "You know you could have fun sometimes. You don't always have to lay there and be a lump."
Viktor flattened his ears in surprise, his eyes widening as he stared at Milani. Her bluntness took him off guard, and when he opened his mouth to speak nothing but a surprised splutter escaped. When Milani giggled and butted her forehead against his fondly Viktor couldn't help but smile, nuzzling against the pup with all the fondness of a father. "Well. Would a lump do this?" With no warning Viktor rose to his feet and bowled Milani over. She shrieked loudly in surprise, instantly giving way to dozens of giggles when Viktor began to nibble and blow playfully at her belly. He caught her with a particularly satisfying raspberry, earning another series of giggles and a protesting chain of exclamations. He stopped only when all four of Milani's paws found his face, squishing his nose and lips up into an expression that caused another explosion of giggles from Milani. Viktor grinned around the squishing puppy paws. "Well now. I seem to find myself in a predicament. I suppose I'll just have to eat my way out of this one!"
With exaggerated sounds Viktor opened his mouth and gently gnawed at Milani's paws. "Uncle VeeVee no! I need those!" Milani squealed and flailed, using Viktor's snout to push herself through the grass and away from him. Viktor responded with a warm and hearty chuckle, nuzzling his nose into the young pup's chest fur. He pulled away from her then to grin down at Milani, and was suddenly struck with the realization of how big she was getting! She had at least doubled in size since they had first met, and it left him staring with wide eyes. Milani tilted her head, blinking a couple times before she gently booped her guardian's nose with one paw. "Are you okay Uncle VeeVee?"
Viktor shook his head and his smile returned, leaning down to lick her ear fondly. "Of course! Come, how about I show you how to fish? You're certainly old enough to learn by now! When I was your age I was already hunting rabbits!" Milani perked up at his suggestion, instantly squirming to her feet. Distraction a success, Viktor led her to the water's edge. The stream would be used for more than blowing bubbles today!